Research Update: Liao Wen-Kui in Hong Kong

Dusky, rainy Hong Kong turns on its lights. Taken from a desk at the Hong Kong Public Library-- 1 of the 4 libraries I scoured in 3 days. Who says being a geek isn't fun?!?

I went back to Hong Kong at the end of June, but instead of tourism, boat-related travel, Fulbright conferences, or even Dim Sum being my objective, I went there to visit libraries and try to find out more about Joshua Liao. (Or, Liao Wen-Kui, Wen-Kwei, Wen-Kwui, or Wen-Kuei, depending on your romanization style.)

Joshua was five years older, and was apparently a major figure in Thomas Liao’s life. Continue reading

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Taiwan Travel + More Beaches: Kenting National Park

So, just kidding from last post, I do have some nice photos of scenic and cooling off stuff like beaches, coral, and snorkeling! (Disclaimer: no photos were taken during snorkeling, all the coral is from the aquarium.) So at the end of May, some Fulbright friends and I took a brief trip to the southern tip of Taiwan, Kenting National Park, where our friend and colleague Craig Voligny had his Fulbright-culmination art show– it was a show of coral-related paintings entitled Meridians and Parallels, to reference both wave and water patterns as well as energy patterns in the human body expressed by traditional Chinese medicine.

We also got to take a spin around the aquarium, where his art exhibit was held, and of course, go to the beach and go snorkeling!! Continue reading

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Summertime… and the Living is Moist

Now that summertime in Taipei is in full swing, the thermometer has melted: the last few weeks have peaked at 37 degrees Celsius, or 98.6 F– the internal temperature of a person!  Heat indexes have been as high as 43 degrees– if I remember correctly, 109 F.  From an informal poll of both Taiwanese and foreign friends and local Taiwanese acquaintances, everyone deals with summer in Taipei in different ways: Continue reading

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Taiwan Travel + History: Green Island

Since I’ve begun to talk more about my history research, here’s a story of where travel and history combine: on Green Island.

The other day, I was talking to some friends about cool places to go on vacation in Taiwan, and mentioned that I went to Green Island earlier in the month over a long weekend with some fellow Fulbrighters. I was listing off fun things to do and see there, and came to the infamous Green Island Prison, which now stands in ruins (with one wing fixed up as a museum) and has a Memorial built on the nearby cliffs. My uncle Suho, who currently lives in Taipei, also spent time there, and I found his name on the Memorial–they list all of the prisoners’ names and dates spent there. It was there that I learned that he was imprisoned on Green Island– for his political actions supporting the Taiwan Independence Movement– for 8 years in the 1950s.

I actually can’t imagine doing ANY single thing for 8 years, let alone being in an incredibly brutal, hard labor camp on an island in the middle of the Pacific ocean.

At hearing this, my friend commented, “Man, your family has been everywhere! All of your vacations in Taiwan always have history research component to them!”

This is, actually, primarily true. Continue reading

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My Favorite Map of the Week

We now interrupt your regularly scheduled programming for this world map by Christoph Niemann (not drawn to scale), who writes Abstract City of the New York Times:

Check out "Abstract Sunday," the witty graphic collection of Christoph Niemann, who used to blog regularly as "Abstract City." http://niemann.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/07/06/the-world-map-of-useless-stereotypes/. I think my favorite of his is called "I LEGO N.Y."

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Google Search Terms that Led You Here: A Collage Poem

Photo of old posters on the wall taken in the Bo Pi Liao Historic Street in Taipei.

This is sort of a non sequitur post, but having blogged for several different blogs over the last few years and now run two of them, I’m always endlessly amused by what Google Search terms lead readers to my blog posts.

Also, lately around Taipei I have met new people, mainly expats, who say– “Oh yeah, I’ve seen your blog… I was looking for something else, but it was interesting.” And there’s that look in their eyes that’s purposefully vague and a little bit awkward, like, were they Googling where to go in Taipei to get that toe fungus cleared up? Or the best third date spot/coffee shop/karaoke house/bathroom supplies store in Shi Da? Or how to say, “I really like you but I just want to be friends, also, I forgot to mention that I’m already married” in Chinese? Continue reading

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Best Poems I’ve Read While Living Abroad This Year

Photo of the northern Taiwan coast taken in Jiu Fen.

Apropos reading things to nourish the soul and feel the sweet sounds and rhythms of the English language circulating through my veins to pump me up for my summer of writing (Cf. previous post about Expat Reading Lists), I’ve been reading poetry. You know, like, for fun. Continue reading

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Kim’s Expat Reading List

Photo by moriza, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons license.

Greetings from the island of Taiwan, which in the last few months, has gone from balmy in temperature to downright tropical!  What is there to do, then, when the days get exceedingly hot and more humid, but to go inside, crank up the A/C, and read a good book?  (Note: going to our local outdoor pool and taking a nice long swim also helps.)

As classes and events at Zheng Da have ended for the year, and my research has evolved– turning south to Silai (Siluo/Xiluo/西螺) and to interviewing important historians and figures in the history I’m writing about–my daily routine has changed drastically. Sometimes I spend the days interviewing people, traveling, reading research that I’ve gathered, or just writing. I’ve also spent more and more time reading– both for research, and for pleasure. And I’ve found some books that really resonate with the “expat experience,” and with my expat experience.

So here is the guide to Kim’s Expat Reading List from the last 10 months, with books grouped by category, or perhaps more accurately, “mood” to read in. Continue reading

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Meeting Peng Ming-Min (彭明敏): Or, Your Easy Breezy Guide to Taiwanese History Research

Today, I met one of the biggest Taiwanese Independence rockstars out there: Professor Peng Ming-Min. He could be considered the Jagger, the Morrison–or maybe even the Lennon–of Taiwanese independence history and activism.

And the first thing he said to me? “I’ve heard about you! I must say, I had great admiration for your grandfather.”

SWOON.

Okay, to explain now: Continue reading

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Calculated Madness: Confessions from the Writer’s Studio

Writers sure look crazy

Photo by Drew Coffman, couresy of Flickr Creative Commons license.

Sorry for the absences, dear blog readers– I have some good news and bad news. The bad (but not really that bad) news: I have been inundated with historical research, some in English, much in Chinese, and a little in Japanese. It’s been a bit overwhelming. As a result, blogging has taken a backseat to working, and to living– Taipei’s winter was surprisingly cold (without central heat) and surprisingly grim (without much sunshine). However, the good news is this: the project has grown considerably, there are MANY ANSWERS to my many questions about the Liao family and the evolution of Taiwan’s controversial past.

Also, for me, most importantly, I’ve been WRITING.

Not blog posts, obviously. But the book. The WORK, as it were, is chugging along at a new pace, with a new tone, revised structure, fresh scenes, and a new perspective on what its starting and ending points are!  The book is moving!!!!!  (going off to have a little dance party now)

Wonka's chocolate river

Click here to see Willy Wonka (aka Gene Wilder) sing about "Pure Imagination."

The trouble with all of this, is the danger that all of you writers out there understand and share, when the work is plentiful and the inspiration flows like some kind of wonka-land chocolate river. HOW TO STOP IT FROM STOPPING?

And now I come to the point of this post. Trying to write when you’re in the zone (and for me, WRITING the major component of my project), and doing anything else at the same time, is a bit like trying to pat your head and rub your belly, standing on one leg. Completely drunk. Maybe in the rain. Or with a bird pecking at one shoulder. Continue reading

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